The rap against Adam Sandler is that he often finds an exotic location where he can fly out all his friends to make a crappy movie while having a nice vacation. Hotel Transylvania is kind of fascinating, as it gathers Sandler’s whole crew together for a weekend at a resort, except this one is animated. So they never really went anywhere.
The movie never really goes anywhere either, but it’s not awful. Sandler stars as Dracula, doing one of his goofy voices and running a highly regarded spa where the Universal Monsters can vacation for a weekend without worrying about those pesky humans with all their pitchforks and torches. Kevin James is Frankenstein’s monster (of course), and in a weird bit of casting, Cee-Lo plays The Mummy. David Spade is The Invisible Man, and Steve Buscemi steals the picture outright, voicing The Wolfman as a henpecked, defeated dad who has far too large of a wolfpack to deal with right now.
Directed by Genddy Tartakovsky, the fanboy favorite who created Samurai Jack and a surprisingly un-shitty Star Wars cartoon for television, Hotel Transylvania is seriously confused, right down to the character design. Sandler’s Dracula and James’ Frankenstein are broad, cartoonish line drawings, while Buscemi’s Wolfman and Jon Lovitz’s Quasimodo are fully-rendered CGI creatures. The movie doesn’t seem sure what it’s supposed to look like from scene to scene.
Far too much time is spent on the mawkish relationship between Sandler and his 118-year old daughter Mavis (Selina Gomez), who is just hitting puberty and aching to see the outside world. Andy Samberg shows up as a hippy-dippy hitchhiker with a big backpack and banal stories about life on the road, at which point a part of me yearned for the go-for-broke, perverted scatology of Samberg’s and Sandler’s criminally underrated That’s My Boy.
It’s just terribly pleasant, that’s all. Buscemi’s novel approach to removing stray sheep from the road rocks the movie into the territory where co-writer Robert Smigel (of TV Funhouse fame) often dwells. But such moments are few and far between.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely